BOOK AND SOFTWARE REVIEWS
Griffiths, Jillian R. and Craven, Jenny (eds.). Access, delivery, performance: the future of libraries without walls : a festschrift to celebrate the work of Professor Peter Brophy London: Facet Publishing, 2009. xiv, 238 p. ISBN 978-1-85604-647-3. £44.95.
Sixteen library researchers and practitioners from Great Britain, the USA, and New Zealand have contributed to the festschrift produced in honour of Professor Peter Brophy. All of them wanted to pay tribute to their colleague, teacher, professional authority and friend. The book covers a variety of topics that reflect the interests of Peter Brophy and his contribution to the development of librarianship and information science as a field of research over the years. It also depicts the achievements within these different parts of library and information studies.
Michael Buckland returns back to the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 70s to explore the work and achievements of the Lancaster Library Research Unit built and led by Peter Brophy. It sets an informative background to the rest of the book both in terms of the formation of Brophy as a library researcher and the scene of library research at that time. It would be most interesting to use some of the projects conducted by the Unit as models for contemporary research into library management and use.
The further twelve chapters contributed to the book are divided into four topics: Libraries, learning and distance learning; widening access to information; changing directions of information delivery; and pperformance, quality and leadership. Each chapter also may be regarded as an independent article, following the structure of most research and professional journals (including the reference lists at the end of each). At the end of the book there is a most interesting annex Peter Brophy: a selected bibliography. It is presented in reverse chronological order and is useful in more than one way. First, it serves as a justification of the topics selected by the editors as all of them can be traced in the bibliography. Second, it shows how Brophy's research interests developed, widened and changed over time, while clearly highlighting the main themes that remain constant over the years. The library and education is a particularly strong theme. The bibliographic list also would be interesting to many young and estabilished researchers looking at the historical development of research into the issues outlined in the book. The book also includes an index of good quality.
Two chapters devoted to the topic of libraries and learning follow the trend of the development of virtual library services to the distance learners. Needham and Whitsed (Alice in www.land) concentrate on the case of the Open University, which is a fascinating educational institution with 200,000 students. The challenges that the providers of library and information services face it this unique environment and especially the solutions they find are interesting not only for other university libraries but for a wider circle of information providers. Baker (Putting the 'e' into libraries and learning) reviews the wider landscape of British higher education developments and the JISC as a facilitator of e-library projects in relation to these developments.
Three chapters in the second theme of the book (Widening access to information) look into more diverse topics. Craven (Library services for visually impaired people) provides a wide picture of the services to visually impaired in the UK. An important aspect of all this work is to find the proper means that will make these services accessible and valuable to the target audiences. Dolan (Public libraries, and enduring freedom) concentrates on the changing role of the library in communities and the expectations of the communities related to their libraries. He draws on Ranganathan's five laws and follows successful initiatives of "welcoming libraries". The final chapter in this part by Eve (Sceptic 2.0?)offers a thoughtful insight and cautious approach to the adoption of interactive technologies in public libraries.
The next chapter turns from the externally-oriented concerns (services of the libraries to their communities) to the changes inside libraries, although brought by the external pressures and user expectations. Cullen and Chawner (Institutional repositories in tertiary institutions) provide a panorama of the development of university repositories in academic libraries and the management issues related to them. The authors try to reflect each and every aspect of the institutional repositories throughout and within an academic library. It could be used as an introductory text by those who teach the topic. The second chapter in this part by Hartley (Folksonomies to ontologies) is devoted to a narrower problem of the changing use of controlled vocabularies and their relation to social tagging. The future developments in this area seem to open interesting perspectives for knowledge organisation.
The next chapter looks into several library management issues. McClure and Snead (An evaluation decision-making system - EDMS) describe a project exploring the development and implementation of evaluation strategies in public libraries and offering a technological tool (EDMS) helping to perform these tasks. Griffiths (Measuring the quality of academic library electronic services and resources) picks up the issue explored in the previous chapter and narrows it to the exploration of the quality in electronic library services. She explains the quality attributes approach and its benefits, which I found useful for my students in a Digital Library Management course, but would appreciate also some reflections on the limitations and shortcomings of this approach. Finally, Rowley and Roberts in the chapter on Influential leadership for academic libraries look into the power relations in modern libraries and the elements of successful leadership in the library environment.
As a conclusion, I would recommend this book not only as a worthy tribute to a prominent figure, but also one that may serve as excellent teaching material in some modern library and information science courses and also as a useful text for professional librarians providing exemples of best practice, introducing useful technological tools for library management and work, and depicting some interesting cases from practice in public and academic libraries.